When I was asked by the China Daily some time ago to write a piece on homosexuality in China from the perspective of a foreigner, I had no idea this was going to show up as part of their special National Day supplement, entitled 60 People, 60 Stories. The title of the supplement is somewhat of a misnomer because they ended up featuring way more than 60 people, more like 120. In the story on homosexuality, which zooms in on lawyer Zhou Dan, my little vignette plays a supporting role, painting the picture of how the gay community in China has grown. Here it is:
Subeditors at the China Daily often have the uncanny ability of making people go huh? with the headlines they choose, and my greatest regret in the rush of producing this piece is that I didn’t supply them with a suggested title — hence the rather unfortunate headline you see up there which was lifted from my final line but makes absolutely no sense for the story as a whole.
A few lines in my piece did get edited out — to my dismay. For posterity’s sake, here’s how my story should have ended. The first paragraph (in italics) is the punchline I hoped against hopes would make it to print:
Tags: China Daily, gay, GLBT, lesbian, LGBT
I have often told people that the single greatest paradox that I experience on a day-to-day basis as a gay Singaporean man living in China is this — that my home country continues to criminalise homosexuality in 2009 while gay marriage has already been proposed not once, but thrice in the highest levels of power in my adopted home.
Of course, gay marriage is still not a reality in China, but it is symbolic acts like these that help dismantle homophobia and shift China beyond mere tolerance to the acceptance of its gay citizens.
They send a clear signal to each of the millions of gay men and women in China that they — and their happiness — matter.
Much needs to be done for the heretofore invisible and long disenfranchised LGBT community, but there remains much to be hopeful for.
I see the hope in the eyes of some of the young men I’ve met who set off from their village straight to Shanghai’s gay bars in search of freedom.
And I see it in the eyes of my friends who volunteer their time hanging out in bars and bathhouses to distribute condoms and safe sex messages.
The echoes of this hope reverberate around the world today and it is a voice crying out loud to be heard.